Allen Ginsberg, Anne Waldman, Chogyam Trungpa & William Burroughs Reading, Boulder, 1976

Last weekend’s 1976 Ginsberg-McClure reading was warmly received. Here’s another one, again recorded at Naropa in 1976, (a couple of months later), and featuring, in addition to Allen, Anne Waldman, Chogyam Trungpa (English translations read by David Rome) and – William S Burroughs!
Philip Whalen provides the spare but informative introductions. The tape begins with him introducing Allen (some amusement from the audience – it’s early days -when he announces Allen’s been singing)

PW: Mr Allen Ginsberg’s latest book is called First Blues, a lot of which is in the process right now of being recorded with Mr Ginsberg singing the lead part..with a ..what’s called a “scratch group”, I think, in New York – but the book has been printed by the Full Court Press and is available nowadays, a very interesting book of song – also, quite recently, exchange of letters – To Eberhart From Ginsberg: An Historic Document From The Beat Era Published Now For The First Time, by Penman Press – Richard Eberhart, as you may well know, is the cousin to Anne London who was Gerd Stern’s first wife. I met him once at Ruth Witt-Diamants house – a very nice man, The occasion for the exchange of letters was, I believe, the review that Mr Eberhart wrote on Mr Ginsberg’s poems some time ago. In any case, this interesting exchange with present-day after-thoughts, appendages – a moment of literary history that you could look into. The larger book of poems The Fall of America from City Lights Press, Allen’s regular publisher, is also around and about, a very clear statement about what’s happening and been happening for the last ten years or so. So Allen will read first I think with the assistance of Mr Karl Berger and more folks.. okay, Allen, if you please.

[Allen comes in approximately two-and-three-quarter minutes in] – AG: “1972 to the present (1976), I’ll be reading short poems. In Australia – Ayers Rock in Central Australian desert – a large red rock, porous, which collects water, so there’s always water around the side and Aboriginal tribes conduct ceremonies there because it’s a sacred place” – Allen performs “Ayers Rock/ Uluru Song” (sans Aboriginal song-sticks), followed by “We Rise on Sunbeams and Fall In The Night”, followed by long detailed poem evoking New York City vista – “Hospital Window” (“At gauzy dusk thin haze like cigarette smoke..”), followed by selected “Haikus At Rocky Mountain Dharma Center Crazy Wisdom Lectures(“Discipline/real discipline/Yellow carnations open under flood-lamps in the tent”..), followed by “Reading French Poetry” (“Poems rise in my brain/like Woolworth’s 5 & 1o cents Store perfume..”) – “We’re now up to January of this year (1976) so I’ll be reading everything up to this month” – Allen reads from “Two Dreams” – Dream, March 1 1976 (“As I passed thru Moscow’s grass lots…”) and (contemporaneous to his father’s dying, hence earlier versions) “a series of poems called “Don’t Grow Old” (“Old Poet, Poetry’s final subject glimmers months ahead..”) – followed by (somewhat incongruously and thus jarring) the erotic doggerel, “C’mon Jack” ( – “(of a) different mood” (sic) – that this is presented somewhat out of context, is evident when, following Anne Waldman’s first poem. “Divorce Work”, recordings of Allen return again – the completion of the “Don’t Grow Old” sequence (sections 3 and 4 – “I read my father Wordsworth’s “Tintern Abbey” (sic)..”, and “Will I really die?/ In front of your own eye” (sic) – instances of later revised lines) – followed by a rendition (with piano accompaniment from Karl Berger) of “Father Death Blues” – the thunderous applause suggesting this, not “C’mon Jack”, was the actual conclusion of the reading)

(Philip Whalen introduces Anne Waldman): Thank you Allen and Karl (Karl disappeared fast!). Anne Waldman is the next reader. Robert Graves says that for a lady to be a poet is a tough job. She’s got to assume the character of the Muse instead of just sitting around and waiting for the Muse to deliver the message. She’s got to rise up and hand it out, just go out and do it, and few poets can do it as well as Anne can, and so it’s my pleasure to introduce Ms Waldman, who is the author of.. various things here!.. Journals and Dreams, Sun the Blonde Out (which is a new book – Sun The Blonde Out is a very special edition) and then, earlier on, Baby Breakdown.. She says she’s going to read a bit of old and new things for you – Ms Anne, come on..

Anne Waldman begins with a reading of “Musical Garden” (“can’t give you up..!”), followed by “heavier New York City work” ( “..which includes some cut-up of some Dante from Purgatorio and a walk around the Lower East Side, and a few other things”),“Divorce Work” – [her set is interrupted by further readings by Allen Ginsberg – see above] – Afterwards, (at approximately 34 minutes in), she reads “Boulder Poem” and “a shortened version of this piece called “Shaman Hisses”, a work-in-progress, based on some journal work traveling with this rock and roll show [the Rolling Thunder tour], it has some speeches” [and a lightly-veiled portrait of Bob Dylan, the eponymous “Shaman”)

[At approximately 48-and-a-quarter minutes in, Philip Whalen introduces Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche] – “I have the great pleasure and honor of introducing a new American poet of great distinction, Chogyam Trunpa Rinpoche, assisted by Mr David Rome”

CTR: “Good evening once more. There have been some studies in the (state) of Tibetan poetics, as well as (the) idea (that that) mentality can be translated into the English language – basically, that has to be a lot of work! As far as the English language is concerned, I prefer it was read by a friend, who understands – and David Rome has been constantly with me, as you know (some of you may not know). But, at the same time, there has been some communication and understanding of (our) poetics. So the English section of that will be read by Mr Rome at this point, which he has (who has) (dramatic?) understanding of the whole feeling and particularly. One of the interesting point(s) (is) that such poetries were written at the time where there was.. Mr Rome takes part in my composing poetry which (and) actually gives a lot of help, and that actually can be transmitted to you people. So the English readings of this poetry, these poetries, could be (are, effectively) translated by Mr Rome, and there are (also) a few poems that (also work in) the Tibetan version which is actually being… (It’s) very interesting that the traditional old language and the modernistic language of Tibet. (and) how that can be combined together, in inspirational language, completely, properly, which is actually the… If you’re a philologist, (or) linguist, you find that out, that the ancientness of Tibet and the modern-ness of Tibet could combine together with lots of subtleties.. involved with that. So I would like to read – I’m sure you would not understand – except one or two of you in the audience who are Tibetans – but I would like to read (a) Tibetan poem and also I’ve been trying different styles.. what’s known as “prose-poetry” – together – and the prose (seems to have) has some kind of qualities of its own vitality, and its own dynamic qualities, and the poems are usually all either 7 syllables – dah-dah-dah-dah-dah-dah-dah – or else you have 9 syllables – dah-dah-dah-dah-dah-dah-dah-dah-dah (so you have 9-syllable versions of the 7 syllable version) – and I have been experimenting, actually, with the 18-syllable version, (which I don’t think we have the time to go through the whole thing at this point tonight, since the situation is pressured somewhat, and we don’t want you to…(we don’t want to be) completely exasperating the poetry world. You have your domestic problems too!) – So this one is..first one I’m gonna read is.. (a) very religious type, very Buddhistic approach, that comes from somewhat a traditional format . It has the notion of.. (a) real sense of genuine devotion to someone’s father-guru, father-teacher, and this story is actually true, and I would like to read this, this was actually from.. composed in Vermont, Karme Choling, in our other meditation center(s) there, and the date was..December 1974, that’s right. So the first portion is actually the prose part, and then it comes with a.. poetry part of it. So here it goes..”

(At approximately 53 minutes and 45 seconds in, Chogyam Trunpa begins his part of the reading, in Tibetan. David Rome follows with their collaborative English translation), “Song of the White Banner”, followed by a short poem (Dzogchen teacher hates the horse but the horse carries him/ At the river, both depend on the boat/ For crossing the mountains its better to carry a stick”) – “This (next) one is called “(A) Letter to Marpa” (notes onMarpa, June 6, 1972)

(Chogyham Trungpa Rinpoche continues) – ““The further experimentations of Tibetan poetries – written in Tibetan and then translated into (the) English (language) – which seem to be an interesting project for us, particularly in my case, and makes sense both ways. It does not become purely classical or purely contemporary…So here we have a few examples of that. We would like to show it to you, and it is written in a traditional Tibetan format of 4 lines and 7 syllable approach..and the first one is…. [Chogyham Trungpa first reads the poem in Tibetan and then David Rome follows with the English. They alternate on a number of pieces] – “In Spring, the North Wind Rises…” – “next (line) is a 9-syllable one (“The Tibetan mountain wears a yellow cloak to ward off attacks..”), (“The mist rises slowly in fear of the wind”..), (“The restless poet who composes a verse in praise of solitude…”), (“The inside which transcends mind and the mind which activates awareness..”)

“(The) next ones..a lot of them are..actually poems I wrote myself in the English language, a lot of them are extraordinarily spontaneous situation(s) and they are..several of them.. well I would prefer you to use your own judgment rather than me explaining my own particular trip laid on you – thank you.. At approximately 69 minutes in, David Rome reads “Supplication to the Emperor” (“You are our rock…”) –

“The conditions these poems were written (in) were very spontaneous, in some case(s), and sort of trying to work with the English language, as myself, I dream in English somewhat, and trying to work together with the humor and dignity and some kind of sharpness that goes with the whole thing,. So everything is not actually composed as a studied situation at all. Everything’s composed by a situation where I pushed myself in writing poetry (so we could say, in some sense, the situation writes my poetry for me). So this is one of the examples actually. David Rome reads “Report from Loveland”

“One little short one in Tibetan, that we translated into the English, it’s.. it was actually composed… not all that recent(ly) .It’s based on somebody’s personal trip, and it goes…(Chogyam Trungpa reads this poem in Tibetan, then David Rome reads in translation) (“You bought it from your father, you sold it to your mother…your family heirloom is..pride”) – “Well they asked me.. a lot of the spontaneous poetry, actually being.. coming out (not actually be written but still coming out, which seems to be an interesting point). (There’s)..not much time to read the whole thing out for you, but feel (wanted to provide) sort of examples of things – maybe you should hear some of them, okay? – David Rome reads (approximately 4 minutes) “Aurora Seven” (“When a cold knife..”), followed by “1111 Pearl Street” (Off Beat), “1111 Pearl Street (Victory Chatter), “Literal Mathematics” (“Zero is Nothing”), and “Aurora Seven” (“Sun is dead moon is born..”)

The final segment of the reading (presented here on a separate tape) is by William S Burroughs. Philip Whalen gives the Introduction (beginning approximately 55 seconds in)

PW: I first heard about Mr Burroughs from Allen and from Jack Kerouac about 2o odd years ago. Once in a while, (while) we were all living in Berkeley, Allen would get a letter from Burroughs, who at that time was in Tangier, I guess and, usually, toward the end of the letter, he’d be working into one of his routines that you may be familiar with from reading Naked Lunch and The Nova Express and The Ticket That Exploded. I’d be… Allen would read them aloud, or just show them to me wordlessly, and then we’d all be on the floor, laughing together, (because of this) terrific stuff coming, coming in. His effect on the work of several generations of American writers is pretty large. Kerouac kept telling me.. he says, “You know, you ought to go to New York. When Burroughs gets back, you ought to go to New York, and see him, he’s really great, talk to him.” And, of course, Burroughs managed to stay in… clear across the world from where I was, and I never got to see him until much later – but it’s a great pleasure to be around where I can see him, every couple of years now, it’s really nice. His most recent works are The Last Words of Dutch Schultz from Richard Seaver Books/Viking Press and A Book of Breeething.  And so he’s going to read some of his prose for you now – William Burroughs

(Burroughs begins reading about two-and-three-quarter minutes in, beginning with “Meeting of International Conference on Technological Psychiatry..“from Naked Lunch) and “Twilight’s Last Gleaming” (with the first appearance of “Doctor Benway”)

One comment

  1. Is there anyone in the history of poetry more talentless, more lionized, and more phony than Trungpa? Ten lines from any of his productions ought to be enough for anyone, much less someone normally as astute as Philip Whalen, to see though this guy. The cult of Trungpa was disturbing when it was in full swing but now is a kind of comedy—the kind of thing Aristophanes might have concocted.

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